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Soldiers and civilians stop whatever they are doing and stand at attention as Old Glory is slowly brought down at Rose Barracks and a bugle sounds Retreat.
The final notes echo through the twilight, rolling across the vineyards of the Nahe River valley toward the medieval town center. This ceremony may soon end. Since the Bush Administration proposed major troop reductions and base closings in January, it has been widely expected that the 8th Infantry Division would be one of the major units to be withdrawn from West Germany. Just the possibility of its departure is sending economic shock waves through this area's 40, people.
Such tremors are being felt in many West German communities, but particularly in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, known among some in the military as ''NATO's largest aircraft carrier'' because of the high concentration of American air bases there. Of the American military installations great and small in West Germany, the commander of American forces in Europe, Gen. John R. Galvin, estimates that about 80 will be closed in the first round of reductions.
Many here complain of the annoyances and hazards of having thousands of foreign troops living and training on West German soil. Scores of companies depend on the military for business, thousands of civilians rely on it for employment, and countless German families have boosted their incomes by renting housing to soldiers and their dependents. For those people, troop reductions will mean lower incomes, a loss of jobs and wrenching economic adjustment at a time when West Germany's Government and business sector are concentrating their resources on reunification and the enormous task of rebuilding East Germany's decrepit economy.
The Bush Administration proposed the cutbacks in response to the political changes that have swept Eastern Europe in recent months. But those developments are small comfort to people like Katherina Gruneberg, 70 years old, who works at a snack stand just up the road from Rose Barracks and spent 21 years as an employee at the base commissary. Gruneberg said.